Process Outlined for Preparing Non-Androgel Bellwether Trials in MDL
The U.S. District Judge presiding over all federal testosterone lawsuits has outlined a case management plan for preparing a group of claims for early trial dates in the federal court system that do not involve use of AbbVie’s market-leading “Low T” drug AndroGel.
Since June 2014, all product liability lawsuits filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country involving heart attacks and other injuries associated with side effects of testosterone replacement therapy have been centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois as part of a federal MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
There are currently at least 274 Androgel lawsuits, Axiron lawsuits, Testim lawsuits, Androderm lawsuits, Depo-Testosterone lawsuits and other related claims pending before Judge Kennelly. However, it is ultimately expected that several thousand complaints will be involved in the litigation.
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The vast majority of the claims currently pending in the MDL involve use of AbbVie’s Androgel product, which is the most widely used testosterone treatment on the market. As a result of the more advanced status of the AbbVie lawsuits, Judge Kennelly previously established a process for preparing a small group of AndroGel cases for early trial dates, which are expected to begin between October 2016 and April 2017.
In a case management order (PDF) issued on December 19, Judge Kennelly indicates that another group of cases pending against Auxilium, Eli Lilly, Actavis, Watson Laboratories, Pfizer and Endo Pharmaceuticals will be prepared for bellwether trials, involving products made by these other low-T drug manufacturers.
While the first Androgel trials are expected to begin by late 2016, it does not appear likely that this second round of non-AbbVie cases will go before a jury until at least mid-2017. The parties have been directed to meet by September 10, 2015 regarding a process for selecting the cases that will go through this bellwether process and proposing trial dates.
According to the Order, Plaintiffs have advise the court that they contemplate the trial dates to be proposed will include an initial trial involving Auxilium, which is the manufacturer of Testim gel.
The federal Testosteorne MDL was established to reduce duplicative discovery into common issues in cases filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, as well as to avoid conflicting pretrial orders from different judges and to serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.
All of the lawsuits involve similar claims that men suffered a heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism or other cardiovascular injury after using a low T drug, alleging that the manufacturers failed to adequately warn users and the medical community.
In complex pharmaceutical litigation, where a large number of lawsuits are filed over injuries caused by similar products, it is common for a small group of cases to be selected for early trial dates, known as “bellwether” lawsuits. While the outcomes of these early trial dates are not binding on other claims, they are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the cases.
Following a pretrial proceedings and a series of bellwether trials, if testosterone settlements are not reached by the drug makers, Judge Kennelly may begin remanding cases back to U.S. District Courts throughout the country for individual trial dates.
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